IMG_4849Jamba Juice wants to help our gardens grow! Recently, Mount Vernon’s Lower School was awarded a $500 garden education grant to encourage our students to lead healthy, active lifestyles and enjoy eating fruits and vegetables!

Gardening is a great way to get kids outdoors and to be active. Teaching them to grow gardens also works to create healthier eating habits and build better respect for our planet. That’s why Jamba partners with the Kids Gardening, a division of the National Gardening Association (NGA).

Through their grant program, Jamba inspires kids across the country to connect with the earth and share their experiences for a chance to win funding for their schools or communities. Thank you to Head of Lower School Shelley Clifford, Lower School Executive Assistant Alex Blumencranz (pictured at right), Kindergarten teacher Eileen Fennelly, and Director of Maker & Media Programs Jim Tiffin for making the grant a reality for Mount Vernon.

At Mount Vernon, students will utilize the design thinking process (discover, empathize, experiment, and produce) to create and maintain their own garden, research the benefits of gardening and healthy living, and plant and grow (or not) flowers and crops. Children will then utilize the harvest to make an impact on our school and local community.

From designing the space and building the beds to planting seeds, implanting worms, and discovering the needs of water and sunlight, this garden will be totally designed and run by students as part of leadership development. Students will study adaptations such as succulents; plant defenses such as thorns; and carnivorous plants such as venus fly traps. Teachers will help create the time to support students by asking questions, listening, gathering tools, and helping to document progress, but the garden will truly be in the hands of the learners. Students may choose to share their crops with our school kitchen, local food bank, or another idea the adults haven’t thought of yet! The opportunities of what can be learned for a garden include math, science (botany, biomes, horticulture), social studies, and literacy. Students will also learn to communicate, collaborate, think creatively, and solve problems. They will learn about the responsibilities of being an ethical decision maker and engaged citizen leader as well.

Several garden-ready spaces were designed by children years ago and have since become overgrown. We look forward to reintroducing these spaces to our students, allowing the areas to be completely redesigned. Students will work together to research and propose what should be planted.

Head of Lower School Shelley Clifford shares, “Students will have responsibilities in the gardens and be accountable. They will design the planting layout of the gardens itself then create a plan for caring for it. They must commit to tending their own work. Just like the students take care of their cubbies, lunch tables, and workspaces on a daily basis, we want the garden to become a part of the fabric of our school. We see Science Lab being the primary curricular tie-in, but the lunch program, food drives, and classroom will benefit from the work done in the garden.”

Clifford continues, “Research proves that deep learning occurs when students are able to make personal connections between experiences and reflect on their learning over time. Additionally, math problem solving is best suited for problem-based scenarios with a real-world context. Thus, a garden project that combines engineering, nonfiction book reading and writing, and mathematical principles is a strong hub of opportunity among a variety of learning outcomes. We do lots of research on the need for brains to be outdoors in fresh air and natural sunlight. Additionally the brain body connection is vital to committing new learning to the long-term memory. We love active and engaged learning, especially when it is outside.”

Thank you, Jamba Juice, for teaming up with Mount Vernon to inspire healthy living!

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